Lowman v. Piedmont Executive Shirt Mfg. Co

In Lowman v. Piedmont Executive Shirt Mfg. Co., 547 So. 2d 90, 95 (Ala. 1989) the Court stated: "While recognizing that a cause of action for fraud is not prohibited by the exclusivity provisions of the Act, we are at the same time compelled to emphasize that a mere delay in payment of workmen's compensation benefits is not actionable as a separate tort claim. The penalty for untimely payment of workmen's compensation benefits is provided in 25-5-59. Indeed, under the provisions of 25-5-59, it is not necessary to allege or prove any element beyond the statutorily proscribed delay in payment of benefits, in order to recover the prescribed penalty. Again, we agree with the reasoning of Professor Larson: "'It seems clear that a compensation claimant cannot transform a simple delay in payments into an actionable tort by merely invoking the magic words "fraudulent, deceitful and intentional" or "intentional infliction of emotional distress" or "outrageous" conduct in his complaint. The temptation to shatter the exclusiveness principle by reaching for the tort weapon whenever there is a delay in payments or a termination of treatment is all too obvious, and awareness of this possibility has undoubtedly been one reason for the reluctance of courts to recognize this tort except in cases of egregious cruelty or venality.' 2A A. Larson, The Law of Workmen's Compensation, 68.34(c), at p. 13-145 (1988)." Id. at 94. In cases involving an allegation of intentional tortious conduct, this Court has imposed a standard of proof higher than the "substantial-evidence" standard: "A plaintiff, in order to go to the jury on a claim alleging intentional tortious conduct, must make a stronger showing than that required by the 'substantial evidence rule' as it applies to the establishment of jury issues in regard to tort claims generally. See Code 1975, 12-21-12. Therefore, we hold that in regard to a fraud claim against an employer, a fellow employee, or an employer's insurer, in order to present a claim to the jury, the plaintiff must present evidence that, if accepted and believed by the jury, would qualify as clear and convincing proof of fraud."Id. at 95.